LA Tech Jobs Soar, Even Without A College Degree

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The California economy is seeing a continuous increase in job creation and a drop in unemployment rate. For the Los Angeles area, it’s not surprising that the entertainment industry is leading the way. Here there is no shortage of actors, writers, producers, and entertainment talent. However for the tech industry, it seems to be an “employees market” if they possess the right skills and talent.

The tech industry is comprised of software development, user platforms, SaaS, and application based companies. The employee demand affects many more companies directly or indirectly associated with the technology itself – including marketing and advertising – creating a rather hot interest for aspiring “techies.”

And with the many marketing agencies in the greater Los Angeles area offering a wide range of services including traditional advertising, branding, digital marketing, search/SEO marketing, and web development, there are many opportunities for those who want to get into the field.

If you visit any job site, you’ll find that there’s no lack of marketing agency openings in the area. In particular, there is a large demand for entry-level positions.

For many who want to get a position in a marketing agency, the question may be “Is a degree necessary to land a job?” Or, “Do I have to go back to school if I don’t have a relevant degree in business and marketing?”

Even though most studies support the fact that college graduates are doing better in the job market, some people are skeptical about the opportunity cost and the mounting student loan debts faced by many college graduates.

In addition, skills required for the technical, creative, or entrepreneurial-related fields are mostly learned “on the job.”

To answer the question whether one needs a related college degree to enter the marketing industry, we teamed up with a Los Angeles digital marketing agency and its owner, Peter Dulay. Peter tends to first look at what he calls “DNA” as an unteachable character trait.   He finds there is a recent discourse toward “DNA (e.g. character, passion, personality) vs. Education as success indicators in the workplace.

On what he looks for its hiring process for paid search management, Peter said, “Conversion Giant is a culture of education and passion for digital advertising. The education part can be taught. The DNA and passion for growing autonomously and helping people cannot.”

Do You Need A College Degree For A Marketing Agency Job?

The critical skills you need to succeed in a marketing agency are hardly academic subjects.

Even though a college education can help sharpen these skills, the more important element for success is the passion for learning and growing as you can hone your skills on the job.

The marketing industry, especially in this digital age, is fast evolving. As someone heavily involved in their agency hiring, Peter believes it’s more important to look for team members who are adaptive and willing to learn, rather than having a very specific academic background.

“We have to construct conversion marketing experts from people who might have very little initial SEM or SEO knowledge but have a ton of enthusiasm and are highly intelligent,” he said. “That process takes a few years.”

As far as degrees are concerned, it’s typically not the first thing spoken about. And sometimes the applicant’s college history is never mentioned.

Peter added, “Another trend I’ve noticed is that more people are showing up with years of technical skills even though they don’t have a formal degree. They blaze their own trails by working in the trenches – building up real-world skills they need while getting certifications along the way.”

When hiring for a position, Conversion Giant does not ignore the formal degree. They consider it a good indication that the candidate was able to commit to a strenuous path of intellectual rigor. College graduates are more likely to have experience collaborating in groups and working in a team setting. If the degree comes from a good school, it could also say something about the candidate’s overall ability to be accepted to and graduate from that school.

On reviewing resumes, Peter admits, “When I see a Master’s degree on a resume, the first thing I think is that this person invested a lot of time into a track that we’re (conversion Giant) probably not directly in. And if they just received their graduate degree, I wonder if I would be able to live up to the expectation some of them were promised by their alma mater.”

While a college degree does factor into a hiring process, a large part of their decision depends on the passion and enthusiasm a candidate shows during an interview.

Does This Apply To Other Areas Outside Los Angeles?

You may be wondering, “What about other locations with a higher concentration of technical workforce? Will I be at a disadvantage without a degree?”

To find out, we asked Steve Sutter who is the CFO of Egnyte, a Silicon Valley tech company. Steve handles a lot of the operational hiring for the company.

“When it comes to hiring individuals at Egnyte, we always look at experience and motivational levels first… before we worry about an undergrad or graduate degree,” he said. “’A’ players are always motivated to learn new things, take initiative and push their careers.  Depending on personal circumstances, that may include a compelling secondary educational background but in some cases it does not.”

He continues: “We are looking for progressive professional experience; we also look at education because that will speak to core technical knowledge and ability. Depending on the role we’re hiring for, we would even consider hiring someone with little or no experience (for certain positions) if they possessed the right passions, drive, and had a high ability to learn on the job.  In fact, we’re better off with a highly motivated individual in need of some training vs. the inverse.”

When asked about what he looks for in a resume, Sutter said, “Most people look at a resume and see someone being at the same job for 6-7 years as a good thing, as in they showed loyalty in not bouncing from job to job. While there is some merit to that I see it equally as a potential problem with that person. Why did they stay in the same position that long without any movement or any promotion? Is it because they showed no ambition, or that they were not capable of advancing during that time? I find that the most successful people, while they may have been at the same job several years, saw their job title changed [to a higher role] once or twice. Also, if they did move around to various employers, that their roles and abilities grew during that time.”

Factors That Contribute To A Successful Career For A Techie

According to the University of Florida’s Executive Education Department, there are specific skills one must have for a successful career in the marketing agency world: critical thinking, project management, analytical skills, holistic approach (thinking in terms of integrated, interconnected systems, and how they affect each other), and technical skills.

How much of these really play into DNA will be more easily observed when comparing individuals with different levels of each skill set. For instance, take two different people and task them with solving the same problem using their analytics ability. One will naturally come to the answer faster. The observations we make dictate what we value in our hiring process.

If you tend to think, “The person who solved faster is smarter,” you might forego the conclusion that “S/he was more interested in finding the answer.” In other words, the person who solved slower (or did not solve at all), could have known very easily how to solve, but with little desire or care to try. This simple example portrays the stark comparison between skills sets and DNA. Most companies are interested in people who want to solve its business and job-related challenges.

Then there are the other general traits that employers look for in prospective employees such as communicative (people skills), creativeness, and enthusiasm. These characteristics are extremely difficult, maybe even impossible to instill in new employees.

To Degree Or Not Degree

When begging the final question on education, we are far from seeing degrees as an irrelevant factor in hiring. Whether it’s the focal point or just a component in candidate evaluation, it plays a big enough role in almost all non-specializing tech jobs, such and management or administrative. For tech talent, such as coders and developers, college could be overlooked but it seems the experience would have to overwhelmingly outweigh the training.

Passion For Growth And Ability To Learn Is Paramount

The marketing industry is constantly adapting to the fast-evolving age of digital media. More and more employers are recognizing that the passion for growing and the ability to learn are better success indicators than a formal degree.

If you want to start a career in the marketing agency world but don’t have a degree, there are lots of things you can do to get involved in your dream industry.  One is go online and study up. There are tons of certifications one can get by taking very inexpensive (if not free) courses.

Another is to seek out internship opportunities. And yes, usually these are reserved for students, but there are many companies out there who will work out a less formal work agreement for people looking to change careers.

The most important step one can take is always the first one. So if the idea of being in a technical field moves your soul, just jump in!

Above content provided by Conversion Giant.

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